As a manager for Cisco's corporate social responsibility programs, I focus on public-private partnerships that support an inclusive digital economy, specifically by applying technology to create positive, sustainable change in education and workforce development. At SB’17 Detroit, during a panel on “How to Use Technology and Creativity to Boost People Upward in a Rapidly Changing Job Market,” I shared insights into one of these programs, the Cisco Networking Academy, which is providing digital skills that boost people upward in today’s rapidly changing job market. As Cisco’s largest and longest-running CSR program, Networking Academy has provided IT skills education and career support for nearly 20 years, reaching 6.9 million students at 9,600 academies in over 170 countries since 1997.
Digitization is connecting cities, companies, countries and people, and igniting growth in new ways. By 2020, 70 percent of the global population will use a mobile phone and 93 percent of people in the U.S. will use the Internet. It is creating new jobs (research shows 1.4 million full-time and an additional 300,000 entry-level employees will be needed to deliver IoT services by 2020) and new job functions, such as network managers, business analysts and product designers.
Though demand for workers with IT skills is growing, there is currently a mismatch between the skills employees have and the skills companies need. While more than 7 million people across the U.S. were unemployed in March 2017, there were simultaneously 5.7 million unfilled jobs and nearly half of U.S. employers couldn’t find qualified candidates.
This is where Cisco’s Networking Academy comes in. Our program provides the balance of technical skills, business understanding and innovative thinking that employers seek today. Networking Academy reached over 1 million students worldwide in 2016 alone, with 120,000 in the US. Since 2005, 1.4 million graduates have reported the program helped them obtain a new job after completing the program.
We provide foundational and career-ready skills in networking and IT, and constantly develop new courses to keep our curriculum relevant, such as IoT fundamentals – a new three-module course that covers big data, analytics and device connectivity, some of the fastest-growing job areas.
Additionally, Networking Academy’s dynamic, hands-on program focuses on collaborative learning via activity to develop deeper, transferrable problem-solving skills. From the start, Networking Academy students are encouraged to work together and collaborate to solve real-world problems. For example, Cisco’s Packet Tracer, a network simulation and visualization tool, is free to anyone in the world who registers and allows for student-directed, open-ended network-building. Our students are challenged to develop entrepreneurial skills through courses such as “Be Your Own Boss,” as well as in-person and remotely-accessed lab competitions and hackathons. As you’ll see in this video, Cisco’s Networking Academy also fosters dynamic partnerships to give our students real-world experience, such as the one with the National Basketball Association. Since 2015, 135 top students have participated in 23 global NBA events, such as the NBA Draft and the NBA all-star game.
Networking Academy curriculum is delivered through traditional and non-traditional education channels, reaching learners across a broad spectrum of life stages, diverse backgrounds and career paths. Courses are offered to high school, community college and university students; professionals looking to reskill or find new jobs; and those in traditionally underserved communities, such as remote populations, veterans, prisoners, people with diverse abilities and those at rehabilitation centers.
For example, many of our students worked in non-technical fields before enrolling in Networking Academy. One of these students, Rebecca Baca, was a 27-year-old single mother living with her parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when she enrolled. After several years working in low-paying hospitality jobs, she wanted to make a better life for herself and her daughter. Though she had very little computer knowledge, through hard work, dedication and supportive mentors, she completed her CCNA courses, landed an internship at Network Architects, and after three months was offered a full-time job. Using the business skills she learned at Networking Academy, she was able to move into project management and was the first woman in the organization to become a project consulting engineer. Millions of students like Rebecca have changed their lives through the Cisco Networking Academy, and we encourage you to read their stories.
In addition to providing the workforce needed to transform industries and change people’s lives, we believe we can go further and empower a new generation of global problem solvers that apply their digital skills to address our most pressing societal issues, such as water scarcity, climate change, and economic inequality**.** With digital skills, we can leverage technology to reach more people faster, use data to make better decisions, and innovate technologists to develop solutions that have positive benefits for people and the planet.
This year marks 20 years that Cisco Networking Academy has been working to foster the digital and entrepreneurial skills people, educators and companies need to change the world for the better. There has never been a better time to leverage digitization to create the workforce of tomorrow and empower a new generation of global problem solvers.